• Published 2nd Jan 2024
  • 2,409 Views, 272 Comments

Warm - CrimsonWolf360

Returning to the past, Twilight does what is necessary to save Cooper from his fate. The consequences for such choices, however, are not to be underestimated. Only time will tell if it was worth it...

  • ...

Chapter 6

An uncomfortable silence reigned over the group of ponies as they looked over to their alicorn friend in disbelief.

"So... you were stuck in... that for a whole month?" Rainbow asked, cautiously.

Twilight nodded, "Compared to Cooper here... I had it easy. He survived four years in that frozen wasteland almost entirely by himself." She explained, sadly glancing over to the man standing beside her.

"Wait, why didn't you just go back through the portal!?" Spike exclaimed, jumping out of his seat.

"Yeah. Why did you spend a month there if you saw you clearly went to the wrong world?" Pinkie added, tilting her head to the side.

Twilight sighed, "Like I said... I was overly excited. At first, I thought I had just calibrated the seasonal range wrong on the portal and was sent to a world like Sunset's but during winter. I saw this brilliant city off in the distance... buildings so tall that they kissed the skyline. No magic or cloudbuilding in sight... just ingenuity and determination..." She trailed off, a sullen look forming on her features.

"What... what did you do?" Fluttershy pressed, gently.

"I took off toward the city. Like an overly excited little foal, I galloped toward what I thought was a beautiful city, teaming with life... what I found instead, was the fractured skeleton of what used to be a great civilization." Twilight replied.

"But... why didn't you just go back to the portal?" Spike asked, a pleading tone creeping up in his voice.

"I was going to, Spike... but then I was shot." Twilight admitted, to a round of gasps from the group.

"Shot? By what?" Rarity questioned.

Twilight opened her mouth to reply, but Cooper surprisingly beat her to the punch.

"She was shot by a bullet... most likely from a rifle like the one I came here with." Cooper announced, looking down to the floor between them.

"You mean that metal stick thingy you left on the floor over in the other room?" AppleJack asked, raising an eyebrow.

Cooper nodded.

"Wait... how bad is that? Is that like getting shot by a magic bolt or something?" Rarity inquired, looking to Twilight.

Rather than reply, Twilight just looked over to Cooper. The silent question in her eyes prompted him to nod and clear his throat.

"Bullets are meant to kill. We've used them for hunting for hundreds of years. A well placed shot can kill just about anything on the planet from hundreds of yards away." Cooper explained, much to the shock of the group.

"Hunt? Ya mean..." AppleJack trailed off, an uneasy look forming on her features.

"Girls, it's like I told you about Sunset Shimmer and the humans in that world. They're omnivores. They eat meat to survive, just like griffons and diamond dogs." Twilight explained.

"Still kinda freaks me out that they were eating cows in that world... I mean, could you imagine eating Bessie from AJ's farm?" Rainbow asked, shaking her head in disgust.

"I'd buck the brains outta any critter that tried to eat Bessie. She's like family." AppleJack asserted, crossing her forelegs.

"None of the animals in those worlds are sapient, girls. I know it's hard to wrap your heads around, but in Cooper's world... only human's have sapience." Twilight explained, receiving even more looks of disbelief.

The ponies and drake found their gaze unconsciously being pulled toward the lone human standing before them.

"Nothing I've ever eaten could talk, if that's what you're wondering... and no, I don't plan to change that now." Cooper stated, simply.

A small wave of relief ran across the group before Pinkie raised her hoof as if to ask a question.

"Um... yes, Pinkie?" Twilight responded, curiously.

"So wait... if these 'bullets' are meant to kill... and you got shot by one... then doesn't that mean that a human tried to kill you?" Pinkie asked, a little uneasily.

Twilight glanced over to Cooper, gauging his reaction. While his eyes fell slightly, he kept his composure while the rest of the group quickly picked up on what Pinkie was implying.

"Yeah... doesn't that mean that some humans were trying to potentially eat you?" Rainbow questioned, a little aggression in her tone.

Twilight shook her head, but Cooper spoke up before she could respond, "Starvation does things to people... as much as I hate to say it... it's hard to have morals when you haven't had anything to eat in three weeks." He reasoned.

Rainbow frowned and slumped into her chair somewhat, a contemplative look in her eyes as she thought over Cooper's response. AppleJack, Rarity, Pinkie, and Fluttershy all shared similar reactions of deep thought as they pondered the hypothetical situation placed before them.

"Imagine not having any food for three weeks straight, and then you see a big, juicy apple suddenly appear before you, AJ." Twilight offered.

AppleJack nodded slowly, "I... I think I'd be mighty quick to take a bite after three weeks of goin' without."

"The only difference is that I was that big juicy apple..." Twilight sighed.

"But... if you said bullets kill creatures... then how did you survive one?" Fluttershy asked, timidly.

The rest of the group quickly nodded in agreement and concern, prompting Cooper to speak up once more, "It depends on where it hits you." He said.

"I was hit in my flank," Twilight explained, nodding toward the small scar just below her cutie mark, "It... was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced.

"Oh, Darling..." Rarity quietly muttered.

"I was so shocked and startled that I just teleported as high up as I could... I didn't take into account gravitational relativity and my location relative to the planet so... I ended up somewhere over the city. The sky was blotted out with clouds so thick that I could hardly see at all and... I got lost. I couldn't find my way back to the portal." Twilight explained.

"Oh..." Spike whispered, shrinking in on himself slightly.

"So... how did you two end up meeting, then?" Rarity asked, hesitantly.

"Oh! I know this! Twilight was in a cardboard box!" Rainbow exclaimed.

The rest of the girls looked to Rainbow as if she'd sprouted a second head.

"What?" Pinkie asked.

"A cardboard box?" Fluttershy parroted.

Much to their surprise, the sound of chuckling halted any more questions they had for the prismatic pegasus, and their attention was swiftly redirected toward the sound of the mirth.

"Yes, Cooper found me in a cardboard box." Twilight admitted, after composing herself.

"Why were you in a cardboard box?" AppleJack asked in disbelief.

"After doing what I could to heal the wound to my flank, I spent the next month trying to find my way back to the portal. I never managed to find it, only growing weaker and weaker as I slowly starved to death. There's no more grass there... it all died after four years in sub zero temperatures." Twilight roucounted.

"Darling... you must've had to have eaten something." Rarity offered, pleadingly.

Twilight shrugged, "Maybe a few things I scrounged from under the snow... but I mostly survived off of my magic. Although... since I wasn't even close to Equestria anymore, it was hard to regain my mana. Every spell I cast felt like it drained me of every ounce of magic in my body and it took so much longer to recover... by the end of the month, I was on death's door." She elaborated, a sullen look in her eyes.

"Twi..." Spike muttered, quietly.

"I crawled into that cardboard box because it was the only semblance of warmth I could find out there... then Cooper found me." Twilight turned to Cooper, giving a small smile.

The entire room followed Twilight's eyes and looked at the lone human as he suddenly became the center of attention.

"I heard her crying in the box from across the street... thought she was a child. Figured it was a trap but... I couldn't just leave her there." Cooper announced, quietly.

"Cooper took me in, gave me food and shelter... he saved my life more times than I can even remember. Girls, it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that the only reason I'm still alive is because of Cooper." Twilight explained, looking back to her friends.

"Why... why did you help her?" Fluttershy timidly asked.

"Didn't you hear what he said, Flutters?" Rainbow responded, raising an eyebrow.

Fluttershy nodded, "Yes, but you've already explained that humans are omnivores... that you need to eat meat to survive. I'm so thankful that you chose to help our friend, but I just don't understand why you decided to... especially if you were so hungry after four years of that life." She meekly explained.

For the first time since any of the ponies saw him, Cooper looked mildly uncomfortable with the line of questioning, prompting Twilight to lean over toward him slightly.

"Cooper, if you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to." Twilight offered, gently.

Cooper shook his head, "No, it's alright. Might as well get it out in the open now," He replied, before looking back to Fluttershy, "The reason I didn't just eat her was... because she reminded me of my daughter." He admitted, prompting a round of gasps from the group.

"Your... daughter?" Fluttershy asked, a horrified look on her face as the implication quickly registered.

Cooper sadly nodded, "My wife and daughter were both killed a few years ago... I... when I heard those cries from that cardboard box, I... for a second, I thought they were from my little Sarah..." He trailed off, his eyes falling to the floor.

"Sarah? That was your daughter's name?" Fluttershy quietly questioned.

Cooper simply nodded.

"What... what happened to yer' family?" AppleJack asked, as gently as she could.

"People came and killed them while I was out looking for supplies. I... I never found the ones who did it. Still having a hard time accepting that fact, if I'm being honest." Cooper admitted, his fist clenching ever so slightly.

AppleJack nodded solemnly, "I'm terribly sorry for yer loss. Ah know a thing or two about losin' loved ones and... even ah can't imagine losing yer wife and daughter like that."

"Yeah... that's awful, dude." Rainbow added, her ears splaying back against her head.

"Thank you." Cooper replied, his voice just a whisper.

Seeing the depressing turn of emotions in the room, Twilight opted to speak up, "After some time together, Cooper and I came across another group of humans that were building something of a settlement. Their leader was the man I told you about earlier, Gabe. He believed he was some kind of prophet, chosen to lead humanity back to peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, when the settlement was attacked, he blamed me and Cooper. We had to run away and... after being attacked by a feral wolf-" Twilight glanced down at her heavily bandaged wither, "-we managed to stumble onto the portal and find our way back here." She finished explaining.

Silence reigned over the group for a few minutes as they soaked in the events of the story they'd just been presented with. Mixed looks of disbelief, confusion, shock, and depression colored the faces of Twilight's friends, but soon enough, a voice cut through the silence.

"So... that attack... all those people that died... and this 'Gabe' dude... just happened in like... the last couple days?" Rainbow asked.

"The wolf was only a few hours before we came back through the portal." Twilight nodded.

"And Gabe... well..." Cooper trailed off, looking over to Twilight.

"That's where the part about the other me comes in. She came back from the future to stop Gabe from killing Cooper here in Equestria. Apparently, Gabe beat us to the portal and once we came through, he had us both at gunpoint." Twilight explained.

"I suppose this is where you explain the massive hole in the wall?" Rarity squeamishly replied.

Twilight nodded, "The future version of me had no reservations about killing Gabe. Every trace of his body is gone, down to the ashes... she really hated him." She admitted.

An uncomfortable silence spread over the group once more as they thought over the implications of what Twilight had told them. Much as they would have liked to outright dismiss the thought that their friend was even capable of killing, the events of the day made them all second guess that preconceived notion.

"Look, girls... a lot has happened in a very short amount of time. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you all coming to help me and make sure I'm alright... but-" Twilight yawned, her wings twitching as she felt her entire body relax slightly, "-I am absolutely exhausted. Would it be alright with you if I went to sleep, now?" She asked, politely.

Much to her relief, AppleJack met her question with a winning smile, "Of course, Sugarcube. You don't mind if we all stay in the castle with you tonight though, do you? Doctor's orders n' such."

Twilight chuckled, "I'd love nothing more than for you all to stay in the castle for the night... it feels like forever since we all had a sleepover."

"Then I think a sleepover sounds like a wonderful idea, Darling!" Rarity beamed, hopping out of her seat.

"I'll go make some snacks." Spike announced, before quickly darting out the doorway toward the kitchen.

"I'll go get our sleeping bags!" Pinkie cheered, before bouncing out of the room.

"I suppose I should go help Spike make some food." Fluttershy added, trotting after the purple drake.

"This is gonna be awesome! First sleepover with an alien!" Rainbow whooped, pumping a hoof in the air.

"He's not an alien, Rainbow. He's just from another dimension." AppleJack rolled her eyes.

"How is that like, not the same thing?" Rainbow scoffed.

However, before either of them could continue their argument, both of their ears perked up and flicked toward the sounds of grumbling stomachs from just a few feet away. Both Twilight and Cooper shared a bashful look as the earth pony and pegasus owlishly blinked at them.

"It's uh... been a minute since we've had any food." Twilight sheepishly admitted.

"Wait, why didn't they feed ya'll at the hospital!?" AppleJack demanded, quickly trotting up to her lavender friend.

"They said they didn't know what Equestrian food will do to my system. Since I'm from a different dimension and all... you know. Just breathing the air here might kill me from the germs or something." Cooper shrugged, although his stomach growled in protest.

"Wait, what!? Are you supposed to just starve!?" Rainbow questioned, sounding offended on his behalf.

"The doctors wanted to get some tests run before I eat any food. They only took a few minutes but it was going to be another couple hours before the cafeteria made dinner and I wanted to see Twilight." Cooper scratched the back of his neck.

"You deserve to have some food! If even half of what you told us is true, then you're basically a day from starving to death already! Besides, I've seen you without your shirt on. You're waaaaaaaaay too skinny, dude." Rainbow shook her head, trotting to the window.

"Where are you going, Rainbow?" Twilight asked, while the aforementioned pegasus opened the window.

"To get some food for the big guy. AJ, you mind if I swipe some apples from your orchard?" Rainbow asked, over her wither.

"Go right on ahead. Try to pick from the South field though. Those are the ones we're buckin' tomorrow, anyway." AppleJack nodded.

With a single flap of her wings, Rainbow darted out the window and dissapeared, leaving only a rainbow trail in her wake. Cooper stumbled slightly from the blowback created by such a forceful departure, but quickly righted himself before he could fall over.

"Jesus... guess she's gonna be gone for a while." Cooper muttered.

"Eh, she'll probably be back in a minute or two. The South orchard is the furthest from town but Rainbow's the fastest flier I know," AppleJack dismissed as she walked over to Twilight, "And what 'bout you? Those doctors didn't give you nothin' to eat after starving like that fer so long?" She questioned, sounding concerned.

"They offered, but I refused-" Twilight began.

"What?! Why in tarnation did you do that fer!?" AppleJack exclaimed.

"I wasn't going to eat before Cooper and I figured that he wouldn't have wanted to eat hospital food as his first meal in Equestria, anyway ." Twilight explained, calmly.

AppleJack opened her mouth to retort, but quickly thought better of it. Albeit with a heavy sigh, she nodded and conceded, "Alright, alright... but if'n Dash brings some apples back and he tries 'em, you'll eat too, right?" She asked, pleadingly.

Twilight nodded, "Cooper's gone a lot longer than me without food... As long he can eat our food without getting sick." She admitted, looking up to Cooper with a small smile.

"Aw, come on! They're apples! Any creature in the universe can eat apples." AppleJack dismissed.

"You're probably right... Sorry I didn't think of this before asking you to go through the portal, Cooper." Twilight apologized, looking up to the man beside her.

Cooper shrugged, "It was either starve there... or potentially starve here. At least it's warmer here."

Twilight smiled, leaning her head against Cooper's arm. The gesture, small as it was, said more than words ever could, and after a pleasant moment of contact, Cooper gently rubbed her wither, just above her good wing.

They were both startled out of the tender moment by the sound of flapping wings. Both Cooper and Twilight glanced up to the window just in time to see Rainbow dart back in, a whole bushel of apples held in her forelegs. Cooper's brow raised in surprise at the quick return of the rainbow-maned pegasus, but before he could voice his surprise, Spike, Fluttershy, Pinkie, and Rarity returned with an assortment of food laid out on a tray being held in the white unicorn's magical grasp.

The scent of freshly heated confections and pastries wafted from the tray, quickly reaching both Cooper and Twilight's nostrils. Both of their mouth's watered as the delicious smelling food was carted in toward them, along with a bushel of fresh apples who's fruity scent only served to further increase the growling of their stomachs.

"Sounds like ya'll're hungry. Let's try the apples first and then ya' can go to town on the rest of it." AppleJack offered, snatching an apple from Rainbow and hoofing it over to Cooper.

Cooper accepted the apple with a slight hesitation, almost as if he didn't believe his eyes. He gingerly grasped the offered fruit in his hand. The weight of it caught him off guard, and he took a moment to appreciate the heft in his hand, as the memories of what an apple felt like were long gone. His eyes slowly trailed over to Twilight, the unspoken question quickly registering between them.

"Go ahead, Cooper." She smiled.

With a nod, Cooper brought the apple to his mouth and bit into it. The crisp, smooth skin of the apple gave way to its sweet core, sending an explosion of flavor across Cooper's taste buds that made him freeze. The taste was indescribably delicious, and the fullness of it made his already salivating mouth go into overdrive as his teeth sunk all the way into the fruit.

A tear spilled from his tightly closed eye as he savored the first bite of his new life.

Author's Note:

We call this "victory lapping" in the business. Hope you guys liked this one. Bit of a dialogue heavy chapter, and we still have a few more of these to go, but there is simply a lot to talk about. It's not every day an alien from another dimension shows up after saving your friends life and recalls the harrowing tail that led them here.